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bilked; bilking; bilks

transitive verb

: to block the free development of : frustrate
fate bilks their hopes
: to cheat out of something valuable : defraud
bilking investors out of their life savings
: to evade payment of or to
bilks his creditors
: to obtain (something) by defrauding someone
The Tampa couple sent out phony sonograms and bilked money from couples wanting children, authorities say.Brady Dennis
: to slip away from
bilked her pursuers
bilker noun


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: an untrustworthy tricky individual : cheat

Did you know?

Initially, "bilking" wasn't considered cheating-just good strategy for cribbage players. Language historians aren't sure where "bilk" originated, but they have noticed that its earliest uses occur in contexts referring to cribbage. Part of the scoring in cribbage involves each player adding cards from his or her hand to a pile of discards called the "crib." At the end of a hand, the dealer gets any points in the crib. Strategically, then, it's wisest for the dealer's opponent to discard non-scoring cards-the ones most likely to "balk," or put a check on, the dealer's score. Etymologists theorize that "bilk" may have originated as an alteration of that card-game "balk."

Examples of bilk in a Sentence

Verb an investigation revealed that the garage had been bilking motorists for repairs that had never been made Noun people who lost money in the scheme discovered that the investment company was a fake and the “owner” just a bilk
Recent Examples on the Web
Five arrested over ‘sham hospices’ alleged to bilk Medicare for over $15 million. Shelby Grad, Los Angeles Times, 9 June 2024 But Miami federal jurors failed to reach a unanimous verdict at the trial of Carolyn Denise Wade, who was accused of bilking about $21,000 from the program. Jay Weaver, Miami Herald, 31 May 2024
And, despite its super hinky backstory, a bronze behemoth of bilk is taking shape in Everett. Yvonne Abraham,, 17 May 2018 See all Example Sentences for bilk 

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'bilk.' Any opinions expressed in the examples do not represent those of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback about these examples.

Word History


Verb and Noun

perhaps alteration of balk entry 1

First Known Use


1641, in the meaning defined at sense 3


1777, in the meaning defined above

Time Traveler
The first known use of bilk was in 1641

Dictionary Entries Near bilk

Cite this Entry

“Bilk.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 21 Jun. 2024.

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